An Open Letter to Amy Schumer on Snatched

Dear Amy Schumer,

I never saw Trainwreck, but I would probably have liked it.

I’ll admit I laughed my ass off reading “Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo”.

So when your latest movie came out (Todo, Todo as it’s called here in Mexico), I forced my husband to go see it with me. Don’t feel too bad for him, our theaters have fully reclining seats (and footrests!), waiters who will bring you any beverage you can imagine (from a full-blown margarita to a shot of tequila to a gin and tonic to a glass of wine), along with pizza or salad or burgers or nachos.

I was SO excited about your movie, though I’m kinda out of the swing of American pop culture so I hadn’t witnessed any buzz about it.

Briefly reading the short description (using my still-learning Spanish skills) before deciding to buy tickets, I was super psyched to gather that it involved two of my favorite things: strong, empowered women and Latin American travel.

I couldn’t have been more incorrect.

The movie was about a self-centered, ignorant woman who epitomizes every nasty stereotype about Americans abroad in existence, while at the same time completely demonizing Ecuador and Colombia, and their people.

Your movie (which I later found out is named “Snatched” in English) wasn’t about travel, it was about taking advantage of Americans’ fears and ignorance of other countries and exploiting that to make some money though cheap laughs and furthered ignorance.

It wasn’t all bad. There was a cutesy message about the main character learning to appreciate her mom, which I can get on board with, having lost mine as a teenager.

But what about learning to have appreciate other cultures? Learning to have respect for the basic dignity of other human beings, regardless their nationality or color? There seemed to be a small nod made towards shared human experience when the main character Emily was helping the villagers pour water into a well.

But seriously, did they really need her help?

Or was this white savior syndrome, when an unnecessary “volunteer” gets involved in an activity where she’s not really needed so that she can feel better about herself while claiming to have “helped” the less fortunate? DING DING DING, we have yet another completely divorced-from-reality idea that you have reinforced!

I kept hoping there’d be a moment where you would point out and make perfectly clear how ridiculous the whole kidnapping situation was… but it never happened.

So I’ll do it for you.

Salar de Uyuni Me
what an actual woman experiencing South America in real life feels like

Kidnapping of Americans for ransom is EXTREMELY rare, especially in Latin America, especially in tourist areas. It’s even MORE rare for a short-term tourist to be kidnapped. And it’s basically unheard of to kidnap a broke-as-fuck woman (and her mom), neither of whom have money nor come from money.

Organized criminals like the Colombian mafia depicted in the movie are not random, they are not stupid, and they’re not going to waste their time and resources, and risk attracting police attention by picking up a couple of economically mediocre women 0n a half-decent beach resort in Ecuador, and then transporting them across international lines. Um, what?

Seriously Amy Schumer, this is disappointing. You have the power and money to make a movie that lifts people up without putting whole societies down. What message did your movie send about Ecuador and Colombia?

And further, as a fellow woman, I would think you’d want to empower other females. That’s what I want to do, that’s what I’m trying to do every single day by working on this blog and sharing the message that the world is not as scary as the media makes it. That people around the world are generally kind and good and that we all have more in common than we have different.

I am so incredibly pissed that anyone, but ESPECIALLY another woman, would promote the very opposite by taking to the big screen and screaming about how unsafe Latin America is – ESPECIALLY FOR WHITE WOMEN.

Aside from proclaiming how unsafe it is, what did you show of the local culture? The women in your movie did nothing besides argue, lay around in a resort, drink, try to meet guys, and party with other tourists. Lovely.

You didn’t care to share any realities of the culture or experience of traveling in Ecuador. So I will. Here’s just a few quick photos of the people I met in Ecuador – a hat and mask making artisan, a student guide, a traditional healer. Note: I didn’t meet any kidnappers or ransomers.

Live Quito Like a Local Stephanie Kempker Edri - Live Quito Like a Local Stephanie Kempker Edri - Live Quito Like a Local

Here’s the truth. Latin America is not unsafe, or bad, or scary, or evil and neither are the people there.

“Bad” people exist, in every country (yeah, even the US, maybe especially in the US). Bad things happen EVERYWHERE in the world but especially when you act like an unaware, privileged, racist jerk. And I’m not just talking about the extremely unrealistic tragedy that befell your movie character.

I’m also talking about you in real life. A Colombian mafia that kidnaps American women and their mothers for ransom from Ecuadorian resorts doesn’t exist. The only true “bad guy” in your movie is you, Amy Schumer. What you’re doing is wrong. Creating a movie that perpetuates untrue stereotypes about countries that have already gone through so much, and are increasingly relying on tourism IS WRONG. Portraying unrealistic situations that will further the fears and confinement of Americans but especially women IS WRONG.

That’s about as evil as it gets. And all for a bit of money… and laughs? I can’t imagine your justifications.

I’m sorry I supported such a bullshit film, I’m sorry I supported you, Amy Schumer, when I thought I was on board with your message and who you are as a person (and a woman), and a creator.

Aside from the people of the countries you depicted, what I’m most sorry for is the thousands of other American women who haven’t had the opportunity to travel abroad, and who now have more fears about doing so than ever before. Even if you want to make the argument that the movie was meant to be funny and not serious, it doesn’t matter. It panders to the very-real xenophobia that is an increasing epidemic in the minds of Americans.

Lucky for me, I actually live in and travel throughout Latin America, as I have been for the past 3 years, and I know the truth. Out of this shitshow of a movie I only lost $5 (the movie theaters in Mexico are incredible AND incredibly cheap), a bit over an hour of my time, and a hell of a lot of respect for you, Amy Schumer.

Tricks and Tips for Salar de Uyuni Visting the Salt Flats
Traveling via Jeep in South America. The worst that happened? It got colder at night than I’d anticipated.

Why You Shouldn't See Snatched: An Open Letter to Amy Schumer    Why You Shouldn't See Snatched: An Open Letter to Amy Schumer

Have you ever been frustrated by a movie’s inaccurate and misleading portrayal of a destination?


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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  1. Greg Dahlen
    December 30, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    Do you actually see dead bodies hanging from overpasses of people in the drug trade who have been killed by fellow criminals? It does feel like Mexico is more lawless than the U.S. in the sense there are many more unsolved murders?

    • Steph
      December 31, 2017 / 3:07 pm

      I’ve never seen a dead body in Mexico, aside from a bird that had fallen out of its nest.
      I don’t think Mexico feels more lawless than the US. While the rate of unsolved crimes is higher, the rate of random acts of violence is much, much less. For instance, mass shootings/bombings of innocent, uninvolved bystanders as seems to be happening with increasing regularity in the US just doesn’t happen in Mexico.

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